Sneak Preview: Increased Monitoring Planned for Rural Ed Program

October 21, 2016 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

xsass_bookshot(The following was excerpted from a recent article in the Single Audit Information Service.) The Department of Education (ED), Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) has developed standard operating procedures to improve monitoring of school districts participating in the Rural Education Achievement Program, according the agency’s response to a recent ED Office of Inspector General (OIG) audit.

The Rural Education program supports initiatives designed to help rural school districts that lack the personnel and resources to compete effectively for federal grants and that often receive grant allocations in amounts that are too small to be effective for their intended purposes. Rural Education consists of two separate grant programs — the Small, Rural School Achievement (SRSA) program, which provides funds to rural local education agencies (LEAs) that serve small numbers of students; and the Rural Low-Income School (RLIS) program, which provides funds to rural LEAs that serve high concentrations of poor students, regardless of the LEA’s size. An LEA is not eligible to participate in the RLIS program if it is eligible to participate in the SRSA program.

OESE’s Office of School Support and Rural Programs (SSRP) is responsible for administering the Rural Education program. Through its audit, the OIG found that SSRP needed to improve its monitoring of Rural Education awardee performance and use of funds. “SSRP has conducted very limited monitoring to determine whether Rural Education grantees are making progress toward program goals or spending grant funds in accordance with statutory and regulatory guidelines,” the OIG said. “While SSRP does collect some data on grantees’ performance and use of funds, there is little evidence that any of the data are used to inform monitoring efforts or provide assistance to grantees in meeting program goals.”

For the SRSA program, the primary method for monitoring grantees is desk monitoring. However, of about 4,300 LEAs that received SRSA grants during from fiscal year (FY) 2011 to 2014, the SSRP only conducted 18 desk monitoring reports of 16 grantees, and in FY 2014, no monitoring reports were produced. The OIG further noted that while these reports did include some information on the recipients’ performance and use of funds, they appeared to consist only of write-ups of what the grantee stated, and no requests for supporting documentation or any data verification was performed. None of the monitoring reports noted any issues or included any findings requiring corrective action by the grantee, nor did the OIG find any evidence that single audit reports of any of these grantees were reviewed.

(The full version of this story has now been made available to all for a limited time on Thompson’s Grants Compliance Expert site.)


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